Monday, September 16, 2013

Training... It's what we do

136 launches on a pilot training mission
Having been on a war footing for the last decade it's easy to forget what the National Guard really does.  Using sporting terms we provide a deeper bench for the active Army (and Air Force) with the additional mission of providing support as needed for the state.  Back in the civil unrest days of the '60's it was the National Guard that was in the papers at demonstrations because while it's against the law for the military to act as a domestic police force, a state governor can use the Guard.  That didn't always work out for the best, and thankfully it's not a mission we get called out to do these days. More common state missions are disaster relief and support - see Colorado guard assisting during the flooding in the Boulder area for just a recent example. Here in Arizona the Guard regularly responds to flooding and brush fire calls.

Now that the wars are winding down and we don't have an impending deployment on the schedule we're starting to grapple with the return to a peacetime status, though this is going to be something of a process.  In Aviation this is going to mean fewer flying hours available to the units, and the while the types of training we do will largely remain the same, the quantity of it will likely go down.  How much depends on what kind of budgets we end up with over the next few years.

Some of that money will come from DOD.  If you've ever wondered why a state would have a unit that does it little visible use (field artillery or helicopter gunships, for example) the answer is simply that it's a lot cheaper to keep that equipment in the Guard than it is to keep it in the active inventory.  The state gets the benefit of the additional man power along with the funds to maintain the equipment. Everyone is happy.

So while things will get understandably tighter, we'll still be training pilots, crew chiefs and maintenance staff.  We'll be doing fewer advanced training missions, saving those for our annual training, and I expect over time our staffing will be reduced, along with the active services.  It's going to be a change, but I think that will be a good thing.